Is it riskier to moderate blog comments? is a post at Business Week’s Blogspotting blog that raises an issue even thornier than the possibility of getting dooced: Aaron Wall is getting sued because of comments left by others on his site.
This raises the need for business bloggers on both sides of the blogging/commenting line to have clearly defined commenting policies. Bloggers should have a readily available posted commenting policy, and commenters, when doing so in association with an organization, should have a clearly defined commenting policy.
Blogger commenting policy
I’m not a lawyer, so do not construe this as legal advice. Consult your attorney. As the author or authors of a blog, your comment policy should explain:
- What happens when a user submits comments, i.e., are comments immediately displayed or are they held in queue for moderation
- What kinds of material are unacceptable, such as swearing, spam, blatant self-promotion, and off-topic comments
- Comments are the responsibility of commenter, and are not the opinions of the blogger, but are an exercise in free speech (if your country guarantees free speech, anyway)
- Allowing comments to remain does not constitute endorsement of or responsibility for any comment’s subject matter
- By leaving comments here, you are agreeing to these terms; If you do not agree with these terms do not leave a comment
If an organization blogs, chances are its bloggers are also reading and leaving comments at others’ blogs. An organization should have a clearly defined policy for what is acceptable and unacceptable for comments left by members of an organization:
- Don’t say anything negative about your competition; praise your competitors as worthy peers
- Don’t say anything you wouldn’t or couldn’t say to a person’s face
- Don’t give away company secrets (your’s or other’s)
- Remember that you are representing your organization and that everything you write on blogs is marketing and branding for your organization, so act accordingly
By following some commonsense guidelines, we can all continue to blog and comment, and, at least in America, exercise our right to free speech. This lawsuit against Aaron Wall seems nothing more than an exercise designed to cause a lot of money to change hands with an end result of the lawsuit never going to trial. But you never know what can happen with these things.
Scoble says comments don’t constitute free speech, and that believing they do is to misunderstand free speech rights:
I HATE entitlement. That attitude has gotta go. You don’t have the right to take me down by posting illegal stuff or stuff that’ll get me sued or spam or really anything in my comment area.
Because it’s on my blog I’m responsible for it. It has my name associated with it. So, no, you TOTALLY don’t get what free speech is if you think you should have free and unfettered speech in everyone’s comment area. Get a clue about what free speech is.
I think he has a point. I’m not sure about the remark on entitlement. That’s the whole point about rights: you fucking well are entitled to exercise them. However, in this case, if free speech does not apply to a privately held entity such as a blog, then no, you’re not entitled.
My question is: how do I know that what you’re writing in a comment on my blog is illegal or will get me sued? What if you don’t know, either, and believe you’re following my comment policy to the best of your ability? Of course, that’s what you’ll say, anyway…
Anybody who wants to chime in on this one in the comments area below, please do so, but remember that leaving comments constitutes acceptance of my commenting policy. So you’d better convince me you’re trying to follow it or I’m going to vote you right off of my island!
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